2016 Mid Year Review

Today is the last day of June. Half the year has flown by since I set out to complete an ambitious array of goals including completing several triathlons and reaching measurable proficiency in two languages. With only six months left to make good on these commitments to myself, I want to take some time to reflect on how far I’ve come, and course correct for the remaining road ahead.


Overall, I think I’m doing a decent job. I’ve knocked out a couple of goals outright, and am tracking towards about halfway on many of the others. There are some goals, however, like meditation and reducing body fat, which are getting much less attention and focus than the others. There is a lot left to do, but I think if I’m deliberate about it it’s still feasible. If I had to grade myself on progress so far, I’d give myself about a B-.

  • Complete a standard distance triathlon (1500m swim, 40km bike, 10km run).
    • I completed a standard distance triathlon on 6/26 in 3:00:04.
  • Complete the Duolingo French track.
    • This one didn’t take more than a couple of months at the beginning of the year to knock out.
  • Stretch: Complete a long distance triathlon (4km swim, 120km bike, 30km run).
    • Tracking towards completion of this near the end of the year.
    • Plan: Train up to a 112-mile bicycle ride. Continue mixing in runs, but up the average distance to 10-15 miles. Continue mixing in open-water swims. The endurance from the cycling training should be more than enough to get me through one of these.
  • Complete a 2.4-mile ocean swim.
    • I have completed several 2.4-mile pool swims
    • I have completed several open water swims, with the longest being in the 1.3-mile range
    • Plan: I can likely already complete these without extra training. Find an open water swim group that has a ~2 mile swim or go to Swim with Pedro and just swim between buoy’s until total distance reaches approximately 2.4 miles.
  • Complete a 112-mile bicycle ride.
    • I have completed a ~60-mile bicycle ride around South Bay, and am currently tracking towards completion of this in the next few months.
    • Ramping up cycling distance will be my athletic focus in the coming months.
    • Plan: Start at 50 miles, then up the bike distance by 10 miles each weekend. Make bicycling the primary long day activity.
  • Lift weights three times a week.
    • I would give myself a 75% completion rating on this.
    • Plan: Continue lifting on off days between endurance training, but find a more consistent maintenance routine for when stuck using hotel gyms.
  • Do an abdominal workout three times a week.
    • I would give myself a 70% completion rating on this.
    • It’s looking fairly clear that I have the musculature for a 6-pack, my body fat percentage is just still too high to see the bottom two.
    • Plan: Continue doing ab workouts on off days between endurance training.
  • Pass the Test of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TOCFL) Level 3 test.
    • I haven’t yet taken a Chinese practice exam at any level.
    • I estimate that I am at a high elementary or low intermediate level in Chinese overall with major gaps in vocabulary across all levels of the language. Putting sentences together in Chinese comes relatively naturally if I know the vocabulary.
    • Plan: Take a practice exam on the next free weekend to track progress. Continue using Skritter for 30 minutes each day. Listen to an episode of ChinesePod on the way to work.
  • Earn the DELF B1 French language qualification.
    • I haven’t yet taken a French practice exam at any level, but I am beginning to feel more confident about my French ability.
    • I would estimate that I am at a high elementary level in French overall, with my speaking and writing skills needing some additional attention.
    • Plan: Take a practice exam on the next free weekend to track progress. Continue using Duolingo as a review tool by aiming for 50 experience each day. Close out the Busuu French track by spending remaining French time on Busuu each day until it is done. After, move toward studying vocabulary lists and grammar pointers from SAT and AP textbooks.
  • Stretch: Earn the DELF B2 French language qualification or higher.
    • I don’t think this is out of reach this year, but I may need to let this one go in order to focus on reaching my Chinese goals as well.
    • Plan: Take a practice DELF B2 french exam at the start of Q4 to track progress. If doing well, consider taking DELF B2 exam instead of DELF B1 exam.
  • Get down to 9% body fat.
    • I am currently at 14% body fat, having started between 15% and 16%.
    • This goal needs more attention and is jeopardy.
    • Risk Mitigation: Focus on ketosis and lifting heavier. A low-carb diet will hypothetically drive my body to burn more fat. More muscle mass should require more calories to maintain on average, which will help to burn the remaining fat.
  • Stretch: Pass the TOCFL Level 4 test.
    • Given my current rate of Chinese learning, I think it is unlikely that I will successfully complete this this year.
  • Get scuba certified.
    • Due to frequent travel and long weekend workouts, I haven’t yet made a move on this.
    • Loose plans to spend a few weekends on this in July.
    • Risk Mitigation: Do this before picking up too much on training for the Half Ironman. Find two weekends that make sense to get this done and just organize work travel schedule around them.
  • Go on at least 4 scuba diving trips.
    • Blocked on getting scuba certified, which is potentially in jeopardy.
  • Read 52 books.
    • I have read 18 books so far this year.
    • There have been some weeks where I have read as many as 3 or 4 books and others where I hardly read at all.
    • Risk Mitigation: Get in the habit of reading for 20-30 minutes before bed every night. Listen to audio books on the way home from work. Don’t let stalling on longer, more educational books prevent you from reading anything at all.
  • Meditate for 20 minutes every day.
    • I would give myself a 30% completion rating on this.
    • Failing to make this a habit or part of a routine.
    • Longest streak has likely been on the order of 10 days.
    • Risk Mitigation: Get in the habit of meditating for 20 minutes as soon as you wake up. “I don’t have time” is still an excuse. 20 minutes almost never makes a difference to the work day.


Establish a Routine That Maximizes Energy Not Time

I’ve found that the weeks where I’m able to establish a regular routine have been among my most successful. For example, there have been weeks where I start work early in the morning, make sure exercise just after lunch, and then complete 30 minutes of Chinese and French studying just after dinner. Unfortunately, with an unpredictable travel schedule it has often been hard to stick to a routine–what works on the West Coast inevitably falls apart on the East Coast where the time difference leaves me waking up later in the day unless I actively adjust. Additionally, there have been weeks where work has been stressful enough that I have chosen to put personal goals aside. In truth, I think this is an excuse because even during those weeks it tends to be more a question of energy rather than time on those days–I find myself letting myself relax to “recharge” rather than pushing to complete personal goals.

I think the answer lies in finding a routine that maximizes available energy to make progress towards goals. E.g. Study French and Chinese first thing in the morning before I run out of energy and start to make excuses. I think I also tend to forget that creating momentum behind consistently making progress tends to give me more energy to work with overall.

Create Measurable and Manageable Daily Milestones

Initially, I didn’t really have any daily goals for Chinese or French learning. For a little while, I think I had a loose idea in my head that I wanted to spend about an hour of my time each day on each language. In reality, I would sort of just spend a bunch of time on Duolingo or Skritter until I felt more-or-less satisfied with my learning. This led to having some days where I was extra motivated and pushed super hard, and other days where I felt much less motivated and pushed much less hard. Two hours of language learning each day also turned out to be such a daunting time commit to ask of myself that I would almost never actually complete a full regimen and therefore would almost never feel like I was “caught up” on my language learning.

Recently, I’ve gotten more rigorous about defining measurable and manageable daily milestones for language learning. Specifically, I’ve found that aiming to spend about 30 minutes on each language each day strikes the right balance; an hour of language learning each day doesn’t sound too daunting, and committing to that 30-minute limit means a more consistent sense of accomplishment as compared to having some days where I study a lot and other days where I study a little.

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